So I was reading a poem with my students about a poet’s crazy aunt – how she did her own thing, how she didn’t let others’ opinions of her stop her from being herself, how the speaker didn’t like her at first, but changed his perspective of his zany aunt, and that’s when our class discussions got really crazy!
As you know with kids, there is no or not much of a filter. Kids started telling me some crazy stuff about their families and, specifically, their aunties. Yikes!
“It’s true, Mr. Williams. My auntie Celia walks around in a bathing suit 24/7.” “My aunt believes she’s still in the 50s. I mean really.” “Mr. Williams, my aunt don’t talk to my family no more over a chicken bone. Nobody wants to tell me the story.” “Mr. Williams, my auntie in jail. She was doing fraud.” “Mister, my auntie makes the best sweet potato Pies ever.” “I have an aunt who still treats me like I’m 5. She still pinches my cheeks. I’m like lady…if you don’t…then my dad would gimme that look.” “Mr. Williams, remember my auntie who came to Open House? She want your number.”
These were actual words from my students once we read Luis Rodriguez’ “Tia Chucha.” My 11th Graders eat it up every year. I’m telling you; every year, I get nervous, but downlow excited about teaching this poem, as our discussion lead us down this crazy, loopy rabbit-hole of funny conversations.
This just makes me proud to be able to teach something with such great soul and richness. Rodriguez allows his readers (my students) to recount their times with their aunts and families, or to revisit their heritage, not matter where they’re from, or at least learn about others’ families and cultures. I make sure the conversations are safe, respectful, and healthy.
Teaching these rich pieces excites me because students get to talk about what they’re experts in in – themselves and their families.
I wholeheartedly support any month that positively celebrates another culture or heritage without putting another one down or disparaging any because that’s what the world needs, understanding and acceptance, right now.
From September 15 – October 15, I try to include as many of these works with my students as possible, and you know what? I even sprinkle them in during the rest of the year as well, regardless of what the curriculum asks for.
As citizens of the world, I believe students need to know about each other, where they come from, where they’re going, and more importantly about themselves.
Here are some of the works that get me to accomplish the above goals per year.